Skills beyond school

Adult Learning and Basic Skills: Policy Insights from the Survey of Adult Skills



Addressing the challenge of adult low literacy and numeracy

In 2015 OECD launched a study that is exploring key skills challenges emerging from The Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC – Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies) and that aims to advance policy reccommendations designed to improve basic skills and their utilisation.

The study involves a sequence of country reviews and all countries (including subnational units where there is sufficient Survey sample size to support the necessary analysis) taking part in The Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) can participate in this exercise.  

While it is centrally concerned with basic skills and adult learning, the study also addresses the role of the initial education and training system, wider and vocational skills, and workforce development more broadly.

The study identifies groups that are underperforming on basic skills and examines the role of the initial education and training system, adult learning and workplaces in the development of basic skills. Other data sources, both national and international, are employed to support the analysis of individual countries.

Country studies

Building Skills for All in Australia: Policy Insights from the Survey of Adult Skills was published in 2017 and was accompanied by a blog post - Why it matters if you can't read this.

Building Skills for All - A Review of England was published in 2016 and was accompanied by a blog post - Why do we bother with qualifications?

Building Skills for All: A Review of Finland was published in 2015. 

Time for the U.S. to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says was published in 2013.  

Literature review

Adults with low literacy and numeracy skills: A literature review on policy interventions was published in 2015 and was accompanied by a blog post - How to help adult learners learn the basics

The review process in 3 steps:

Country reports take 12 months from start to finish, with each of the 3 consecutive steps taking 4 months, leading to the delivery of a draft report to the country.

Step 1. Initial analysis by the OECD Secretariat, using the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) augmented by other sources to identify a set of strengths and challenges (including those bearing on adults with weak basic skills of literacy and numeracy) in the country skills system.

Step 2. Focusing on the agreed set of strengths and challenges, further data analysis is undertaken by the Secretariat, augmented by a country background report from the country authorities.

Step 3. A mission to the country is undertaken by an OECD team, leading to a report documenting strengths and including policy recommendations supported by analysis to address the identified challenges.

For further information contact the team.

See also:


Download Skills beyond School: Synthesis Report




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